It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost six years for me since I “officially” joined the Black & White & Read & All Over community, although I think that I started reading the content a bit before that. First I was a reader; then I took the plunge of becoming a regular commenter; followed by a guest post or two and promotion to moderator; and, finally, the wonderful honor of becoming
an official signing a regular writer. The offseason is often a time to lose your shit about potential transfers and absurd mercato rumors for reflection and, thus, what follows is my personal reflection of what all these years of being a member of this community has taught me.
Freedom of Speech
Being a moderator taught me just how tough it is to adequately interpret the issue of freedom of speech. Although we do have community guidelines about what is and is not tolerated in comments, the delicate nature of freedom of speech is extraordinarily difficult to implement consistently. If you’re too strict, it looks like you’re abusing your dictatorial censorship powers. If you’re too lenient, not only does it seem like you’re implicitly condoning malicious behavior, but you also risk letting the community atmosphere deteriorate rapidly and become very toxic. On the other hand, sometimes people do legitimately make an error of judgement and do admit and apologize afterwards for stepping out of line. It seems like a dismissal of their apologies if you were to delete/hide their comments or, in the most extreme case, ban them for their transgressions.
On that note, I remember that JohnCas had a relatively laissez-faire towards banning – at least, that’s how I interpreted it. He would generally only issue a public/private warning here and there, thus only dropping the ban hammer if a person was explicitly and evidently racist, homophobic, or sexist over and over again. I admired his approach and broadly adopted it, meaning that I lean towards giving people another chance and/or just warning them in private if it seems like they’re threading a fine line. I generally like to think about issues like whether the comments were direct personal attacks and if a private warning would suffice instead of a ban in terms of getting the message across. In reality though, I’m too lenient/nice to be a moderator because I probably let a bit too much slide…
In a strange way, all of this reminded me of a discussion I once read about how difficult it is for Facebook (and I suppose Twitter as well) to moderate content. It’s not an easy task when you have to monitor hundreds of millions of posts per week. Obviously, the case of social media is a bit different from our situation here, but I think there is a similarity between the two in terms of the (political) correctness in what we say, setting and maintaining boundaries, and what we as a community/society accept as tolerable behavior.
Emotions and Rationality
I’m very grateful and honored to be part of a community that generally has the reputation of having intelligent discussions from wonderfully clever people from a range of professional backgrounds. That said, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies over here; we’re all flawed human beings, right? With the rise of Juventus’s fortunes on the pitch came a logical, significant spike in user traffic on the blog. I obviously welcome each and every person that wants to be part of the community – given that they respectfully follow the rules – but it was around the time of this uptick in website traffic that I learned another interesting insight. Mastering the art of respectfully discussing a topic that is dear to your heart (Juve!) in a way that doesn’t push emotional buttons is deceptively difficult. Ideally, you want to discuss a topic in a way that actually creates/stimulates thoughtful discussion instead of a piss-fest of anger and name-calling.
“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” – William Shakespeare
It’s something that I was oddly blasé about in my younger years but now see so damn persistently in my daily life. From all these years of interacting with people from a wide variety of cultures here at BWRAO, I learned how to use the appropriate vocabulary that, crucially, avoids emotional triggers (i.e. personal attacks) and stimulates the rational parts of our brains. It’s funny because once you negatively hit someone’s emotional chords, you can basically throw the rational discussion out of the window. The person isn’t going to respond to your rational argument anymore; all he sees, hears, and responds to is the personal ‘attack’ in order to defend himself. The intellectual discussion is over now, all that remains is a heated contest of never-ending name-calling.
“Argue like you’re right, listen like you’re wrong.” – Adam Grant
Like I said, now I just see it all the frickin’ time in my daily life (and politics?). So many intellectual discussions gone down the drain because people let their emotional impulses get the better of them. It really is remarkable though how, all of a sudden, your eyes are wide open to perceive something that was there all along but you somehow never noticed. Perhaps you see less than you actually see…
During my early academic years (i.e. pre-university) my writing skills were fair. Nothing to make the likes of Ernest Hemingway tremble in fear, but certainly enough to get an acceptable job done. Without a doubt, however, writing on this blog made me the writer that I am today. First it was by becoming a reasonably respected commenter and, eventually, by regularly contributing with articles. Honestly, I would never have had the confidence to write for a public audience if I had not gained it here. I obviously have to thank Danny for giving me the opportunity to write for here for so long and letting me say basically whatever I want (a privilege that I could have easily abused).
Becoming a good writer didn’t only well, you know, make a good writer, but it also had a profound effect on my personal life. Heck, I was actually able to say with a full confidence “I actually have something that I’m genuinely good at!” It’s impossible to describe the stratospheric effect that having confidence in your abilities has on your personal life; I can truly say that this dramatically boosted the way I felt about and looked at myself.
This writing mastery had the added benefit of also adding some creative flavor to my academic/professional writing. I was able to write my essays with a far more creative color than I would have been able to do otherwise (although it sometimes sounds a bit weird/unprofessional).
The power of the written word really is something to behold.
“I hate writing; I love having written”
When I first started writing regular articles for BWRAO, I was as excited as a kid that goes to Disneyland for the first time. I put a lot of my emotional energy into it because I had never experienced anything like this in my life (given that I’m only 24yrs old now) and I loved it. Just like when you finally ‘win over’ that girl you’ve courted for so long, then experience a romantic “honeymoon period” at the start of the relationship, but eventually find things to become a bit ordinary, my romance for writing for BWRAO also wore off after a while. It really is as they say: no matter how much passion you have for something, it all eventually becomes work (or a job) no matter what.
Despite this though, every time I look back at the content that I’ve written over the years, I’m still immensely proud of and happy with myself for the content that I produced. Sometimes I also get into this fantastic, surreal state of flow when I’m writing a piece and I’m just completely in my zone. All in all, it’s a paradoxical internal battle that I have, but it does remind me of something I’ve heard a few times now on the podcasts/blogs I follow. Half the job of becoming “successful” with anything boils down to simply showing up day after day and doing the work/making the content.
I certainly don’t hate writing, but I sure as hell love having written.
The priceless value of community
No matter how introverted or socially-reclusive you are, we human beings undoubtedly are social creatures. When I first found this blog (back around 2011 when it was still the Offside), I was going through a bit of a rough time in my personal life, such that any and every Juve game was a welcome respite from my challenges. This feeling of comfort was made immeasurably better once I then found this community to share all kinds of thoughts and feelings related to Juventus, and even the occasional mindless banter about random stuff (throwback to Marco P. and the priceless mattress joke or to the hilarious way Adam Digby would always say “But Maaaahco!” on the podcast).
That said, I have to recognize that our community has had various unsavory, negative moments where the mood doesn’t feel quite so bright and bubbly. As much as I enjoy and love to praise this community, it is unfortunately true that behind every light there is always a bit of darkness. It is no different for our community here.
Nevertheless, having a community, be it with people you’ve never met in person or with those in your physical proximity, really can bring a breath of fresh air to your life. Because at the end of the day, we’re all just weird people trying to figure out this thing called
It’s human nature to be weird but also human to be lonely. This conflict between fitting in and standing out is at the core of who we are. – Seth Godin